How to Deal with Employee Turnover

Tech is known for employee turnover, but add to that Covid and work from home opportunities, and we’ve seen the rates of turnover expand even more. So how do we handle employee turnover while maintaining project stability? How do we build a strong team?

Full Transcript Below:

Cris:

As in, just overall all industries, we’re looking at like 50-plus percent turnover. So this is affecting everyone, not just tech.

Andrew:

Yeah, tech is a growth industry, and so there’s just a lot of opportunities. You don’t necessarily have to move to a different state to work for a company in that state.

Cris:

What causes that? How are ways that maybe you can mitigate that.

Cris:

Today, we get to talk about something that is very important, isn’t necessarily fun, but if you can manage it well, is going to just pay dividends to your company. We’re talking about employee turnover. And so what kind of causes that, how are ways that maybe you can mitigate that, how we have managed it over the years and how our team has stayed strong, all that kind of stuff. What do you see as some of the causes for high employee turnover within a tech company, because that’s what we are, so let’s talk about tech companies?

Andrew:

Sure. Well, just with COVID and employers being more open to remote work, there’s just a lot more opportunities, where you don’t necessarily have to move to a different state to work for a company in that state. So opportunity, developers getting to pick and choose who they work for, what hours they work for, whether they want to be an independent contractor or work for a development firm, so that’s a common one. And then just tech is a growth industry, and so there’s just a lot of opportunities. It’s more of a seller’s market. So, again, it just goes back to the developers having lots of options. And so maybe they’re not staying in the same place for a long time.

Cris:

Yeah. And it’s just overall changing. We were looking at some statistics on LinkedIn, and it was talking about how, in 2018, about 13% of the tech market was dealing with issues of turnover. And now, just wide, as in just overall all industries, we’re looking at like 50-plus percent turnover, so this is affecting everyone, not just tech, but we’re seeing it grow and we’re seeing it change, and definitely, it’s affecting us. So how are we here at Bixly working to maintain a strong team? What are we doing to help mitigate the risks of high turnover to not only help us stay strong but help our clients?

Andrew:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I mean, you use the word team, right?

Cris:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew:

We try to do things that just make people feel really connected. We fortunately do have a lot of our employees in the office, not remote. And so it allows us to do more team-building things and just things to really make people feel connected and not isolated on an island somewhere without human interaction. I think if people feel isolated and alone, they’re more likely to try somewhere else, right-

Cris:

Sure.

Andrew:

…because they don’t have that connection necessarily. So team building type stuff.

Cris:

Which is just as important for the remote people as well because, again, it’s easy to do team building when you’re face to face with someone. It gets a little more interesting, and we’ve even touched on that before of how to handle remote work and team building and all that. But it’s a huge component. You have to feel connected to the company that you work for. Otherwise, at the end of the day, it’s just a paycheck. And whoever’s going to pay more, well, you’ll go take that one.

Andrew:

Pay more, give me the most freedom, give me the best benefits, whatever it is. Yeah. It becomes-

Cris:

Yeah, it’s a lot of things. Yeah.

Andrew:

…very transactional. Yeah.

Cris:

Yeah, totally. Oh, other things, obviously, pay is important. I think us, keeping a strong salary within the industry and setting standards for minimum salaries and what we’re going to bring people in, there’s a lot of companies out there that may choose to do a high turnover, and it’s very much just a mill of “We’re going to get the people for as cheap as we can and they work out of a job.” So that’s something that can attribute to turnover. You might choose to turnover quickly, which is something that we don’t like to do. I think it’s important to maintain project stability. And part of doing that is keeping people here for a long time. What other things are we doing? How are we maintaining a strong team? In the event that someone does leave, how are we maintaining project and staff movement? Let’s unpack that.

Andrew:

Well, and I think that’s probably the thing that clients would be most interested to get out of this discussion is, “How does this affect my project? Is there going to be all this volatility? Am I going to be constantly dealing with different people?” And, like you said, we work really hard to keep that core team together during the duration of the project and even make them available after the project if the client wants ongoing work, but as far as how do we address volatility and people leaving, I think-

Cris:

Or just movement in general.

Andrew:

Yeah. I think the simplest way to do that is… Or the simplest answer to that is to have a core tech stack that we work with, a lot of Python, Django, and react on the front end, things like that. And so not that people are interchangeable, but at least if it’s a tech stack that someone else on the team or multiple people on the team contribute to, it’s not such this huge thing to move someone from one area to the other, whereas if everybody’s doing their own thing and we use a ton of different tech stacks, yeah, we might be able to take on more projects, but like you touched on, when somebody leaves, it’s just like, “Oh my gosh, who are we going to find to do this work now?” And so we very consciously avoid that because we want to provide the best-possible stability for our clients.

Cris:

Yeah. And even yesterday, we were sitting down as an admin team talking through DevOps standards and documentation and ensuring that we continue, as a company, to always grow and pivot and ensure that the stability of the project is built off of key documentation, strong README files, all this information being in a coherent spot where everyone can access it. So if we have to have a team movement of any kind, whether that is because of an employee turnover or simply because of a movement, our culture here at Bixly is we don’t want to burn people out. So we try to make regular project pivots and movements, keep things fresh for the development team and the design team but also effectively stable for the client. And by having documentation that’s strong, it gives, basically, a point to go on the project. It helps a lot. So I think that’s another way of maintaining the strong team is actually can be moving people.

Andrew:

Right. Well, and I like-

Cris:

You got to do it right.

Andrew:

I like that you touched on the documentation. I mean, a lot of times clients aren’t particularly interested in documentation as the project is being created, but then after the project is done-

Cris:

It’s so important.

Andrew:

…it’s like, “Well, you got to make documentation.”

Cris:

It’s got to be all done.

Andrew:

Right. So I feel like documentation’s really important, and it’s good for the clients after the fact, if they have developers that are later going to work on the code. It’s good if we have to bring in new developers or move people in mid-projects. So we do that knowledge transfer, that putting things down on not paper but in our Wiki.

Cris:

Yeah, exactly. So let’s take it back a little bit. We can share about our personal stories, but how is… And we’ve lightly touched on it already, but how is turnover within a tech company going to affect that company as a whole? If they just have high turnover within their staff, how is that affecting them? How have we seen that affect companies? How have we seen that affect us when we’ve gone through seasons, where we’ve had a bit of a higher turnover? How does that affect us?

Andrew:

Well, it’s very disruptive. I mean, as you’d expect, and so if it’s internal, we can mitigate that risk and do things, like we talked about, with having a common tech stack, but we’ve had instances where we’re working with clients who have turnover on their side. And then it causes delays, in many cases, as we figure out who this person was, what do they do, that kind of thing. So just again, having that knowledge base and that documentation there to be able to not have to figure things out from scratch when somebody leaves is so helpful.

Cris:

How does it affect the overall social climate of the project? How are other people, that are still there, how are they affected by people moving?

Andrew:

Yeah. Well, I mean, as you’d expect, in many cases, it’s a hit to morale, but in some cases, maybe it’s not. Maybe it was time for that person to move on.

Cris:

It depends on the person.

Andrew:

It depends on the person.

Cris:

There’s always a silver lining.

Andrew:

So it depends.

Cris:

Yeah. But as a whole, it leaves a hole, it feels like, in the project where you do miss having that person there and what they brought to the table. And so I think, as much as you can plan for movements within a project and really, again, you’ve used the word mitigate a lot of times but mitigate that risk of that movement, the whole will be smaller and it will be less felt. But if this is happening too often, it really makes everyone around you, clients, employees, admin staff, everyone just feel uncomfortable like, “Are we stable? Are we going to be okay as a company?” And it just really speaks into that unsettling feeling that no company wants to deal with.

Cris:

An interesting thing that I’ve noticed as we’re starting to see, again, a high turnover in the tech industry, all industries, but with tech in general, that if you, as an employee, have a bit more of that mercenary style mentality of “I’m going to go with whoever’s going to pay me the best and give me the best benefits package or that for some whim makes me feel comfortable to stay,” whatever it is-

Andrew:

And bounce from company to company.

Cris:

…and bounce from company to company, yeah, there is a bit of a climate that allows you to do that a bit more. And tech tends to be an industry because of documentation, because of I need someone to come in and do this thing and this other thing, this other thing, as long as it’s documented, well, it can be done. It works. And it allows you, as an employee, to actually bounce around quite a bit. With that in mind, though, is you have to remember who are you working for? What does the company value? Do they value the ability to just have a quick swap in, swap out? “Okay, go find this person. Go find that person that can do this and that.” Or are they built on more of a mentality of “We want to keep a strong team. We want to keep someone long term”? And from Bixly’s perspective, we tend to lean in that direction. We want people to have high salaries, so we offer those to them, strong benefits packages, make them feel part of the team, all the things that we’ve touched on.

Andrew:

And we want them to be around for the long haul.

Cris:

We want them to be around for the long haul. And so just keep in mind that if you, as an employee, have that mentality of “I want to bounce around from company to company to company,” places like Bixly and other companies that still operate in this manner, it’s probably not going to be the right fit for you. Those companies exist, but you’re now starting to put yourself in a particular lane. And so I just think it’s interesting that overall turnover and a mentality of turnover has affected both the way companies operate and the way that employees operate and move within those companies, so thoughts, concerns, questions?

Andrew:

No, it makes a lot of sense. I mean, it sounds like more of a startup mentality, where “I’m going to go work for this company. I’m going to get some amount of ownership in it, and if it works out, great. If it doesn’t, I’m just going to bounce to the next one” kind of thing and try to hit that lottery ticket of which startup’s going to be the next big one, not necessarily “I want to work with this company and really like be part of their culture or team for the long term.”

Cris:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and I think it’s different, too, than even earlier generations, the way that my parents worked within an industry and everything was always, you go to school, you go to college, you get your degree, you get your job, and you’re there for the next 40 years and you retire. And the industry just isn’t that way anymore. And so I think it’s good for us, as a company, because it forces us to really think about our employees that much more and what they need and what they desire and pivot so we can, again, fight a high turnover rate because it’s important for us to not have turnover, but it also gives opportunities to employees, which is neat. But if either side is not balancing that right, it can get really messy, really quick.

Alexandra:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Cris and Andrew as they addressed the topic of employee turnover among tech companies and in the tech industry, in general. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section. And don’t forget to check out the description box down below. We have a lot of helpful links in there for you, including a link to our free custom software guide, as well as a link to our website, bixly.com. If you head over there, you can actually find, right at the top, start my project roadmap. And that gives you a free 60-minute conversation with Cris to talk about your next app idea. It’s fee. It’s obligation free, so don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with us. Until next time, this has been an episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday.

Originally published at https://blog.bixly.com on January 11, 2022.

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